Held on October 4 at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, the 2018 Sports Celebrities Festival presented by Wheaton Precious Metals put Special Olympics BC athletes in the spotlight alongside the entire Vancouver Canucks roster and leading B.C. sports celebrities, while raising important funds for the Canucks for Kids Fund and SOBC.
At the event, Randy Smallwood, CEO of Wheaton Precious Metals, shared why the mining company is such a strong supporter of this important gala.
“At Wheaton, we have been very fortunate over the years, and sharing this success with the communities in which we and our partners in is a core part of our values and culture.”
This year, the Sports Celebrities Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary. Over the last two decades, this unique and inspiring event has raised more than $5.4 million for SOBC and the Canucks for Kids Fund.
For the second year in a row, SOBC – Langley athlete Christian Burton took the mic as the event’s co-emcee, joining Sportsnet 650 Starting Lineup host James Cybulski. Speaking to Breakfast Television Vancouver earlier in the day, Burton described why the Sports Celebrities Festival is important to Special Olympics BC athletes.
“The event is so special because it presents an opportunity to show everyone in B.C. who we are as athletes, and to show that we play sports at a very good level, just like everyone else.”
Vancouver Canucks forward Brandon Sutter has been the event’s ambassador for the past three years, and described how meeting SOBC athletes and seeing their love of sports inspires him and the other Canucks players.
“It takes you back and makes you realize how fun it is to play games and how special of a situation we’re in,” Sutter said to Breakfast Television. “We get to the event and meet all the other athletes and you realize how much we have in common.”
During the event, Sutter shared his personal perspective on the powerful impact of Special Olympics with Sports Celebrities Festival guests. Sutter’s cousin Chris and close family friend Mikey are Special Olympics athletes, and he has seen firsthand the difference it has made in their lives.
“Social skills, fitness, nutrition benefits, confidence, and of course the excitement. These are just a few of the incredible benefits these athletes now have access to,” Sutter said.
Speaking alongside Sutter, SOBC – Abbotsford athlete Paige Norton captivated the sold-out crowd with her story of how Special Olympics has dramatically changed her life and her health.
Born with Down syndrome and a number of health issues, Norton had her first heart surgery at just five months old, and open-heart surgery at three years old. She and her family were told that Norton would need additional surgeries as she grew older.
“Imagine how happy and surprised my parents where when, at 13 years old, my cardiologist told us he didn’t feel I would need any further surgery. He said my healthy lifestyle, sports, and my training have given me a strong heart.”
Norton is now an accomplished athlete who has earned her way to seven Provincial Games, four National Games, and two World Games. She was named Special Olympics BC Athlete of the Year in both 2011 and 2017, and was named Special Olympics Canada Female Athlete of the year in 2017.
But for Norton, “The most important thing that Special Olympics brings to my life is friends and the feeling of belonging. A place for people to accept me, and for me to be the best that I can be.”
Norton shared her appreciation for the Special Olympics BC Athlete Leadership Program, which helped build her confidence and self-esteem.
“It’s allowed me to speak at events and raise the profile of Special Olympics in my community, sharing our programs and the stories of our amazing athletes, coaches, sponsors, and partners like the Vancouver Canucks.”
Through Special Olympics, Norton has discovered just how much she is capable of.
“I just know you can do anything if you try, and work really hard,” she said.
Norton shared her gratitude to everyone who supported this year’s gala.
“Thank you for all that you do for me and my friends. Your dedication, work, and support truly makes a difference in our lives.”